One project I was pretty stoked to hear about when it was announced in 2009 is the film adaptation of the graphic novel series Priest. Being a huge fan of the story, I had hoped that somehow the stars would align to bring audiences a faithful telling of Ivan Isaacs (Paul Bettany), a warrior Priest from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church that must fight back when his niece (Lily Collins) is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires.
While promoting Priest in 3D during the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, Dread Central had the chance to talk exclusively with director Scott Stewart (Legion) on what drew him to the story of Priest, collaborating with Priest creator Hyung Min-woo, and why he decided to do post-filming conversion of the project into 3D.
“I am really proud of this movie and proud to be at Comic-Con with Priest,” explained Stewart. “It’s definitely a much different movie than Legion was. It’s a broader story in terms of the scope of the action and the world the story takes place in. I fell in love with this story about a man who has to rescue someone he loves and has to face his own personal demons beyond the threat of vampires while doing it. It resonated with me.”
I spoke to Stewart about how much of the graphic novel fans will get to experience once Priest in 3D heads to theaters in May 2011.
Stewart said, “I was familiar with Hyung Min-woo’s work on the Priest graphic novels before I got on board the project. I had read the first few books but didn’t get to finish them all because there are 16 of them. But the thing about the series is that there’s really no resolution at the end of the 16th volume so the world is wide open.”
“Then, when I read Cory Goodman’s script, it blew me away. He distilled a lot of the elements that were in Min-woo’s books and then added some of his own touches to this world. I describe the film as a true collaboration between Cory, Min-woo and myself where we all brought our own fish to fry, so to speak. I think fans of the graphic novels will see a lot of the elements that they love from those pages as well as some new ideas that clearly pay homage to Min-woo’s original vision of Priest,” Stewart added.
Priest becoming a film also sparked the creative fire for Min-woo, who hadn’t written about Priest in a very long time. Stewart explained how the magic of the film project inspired the artist to create a whole new Priest story tying his novels to the big-screen adaptation.
“Min-woo came to Los Angeles when we were in pre-production and was happy with where we took the story,” explained Stewart. “He said he felt like his books represented the past of that world and that the movie Priest represents the future of the Priest world. From our meeting, Min-woo went back to Korea to write what is now known as Priest: Purgatory, which explains a lot of the things he always wanted to explore further in the series and ties some of the loose strings left after the 16th book.”
“Purgatory ties together the first book series with the world of the film, and that’s just inspiring to me as a filmmaker that because of what we were doing, Min-woo wanted to go back to those stories and finish what he started,” Stewart added.
Priest also re-teamed Stewart with Bettany, whom fans last saw in Legion fighting against hordes of angels hell-bent on destroying the Earth. Stewart said he never had anyone but Bettany in mind for the role.
Stewart said, “Priest is a great evolution for the working relationship between myself and Paul. Legion was more of an ensemble piece, which was a lot of fun, but this movie is really about Paul’s character so getting to work with him again didn’t even feel like it was work. We’ve become friends because of these collaborations, and he amazed me with what he did with this character.”
In the 3D film world fans now live in, most people might cringe at the idea of post-converting a film into 3D instead of shooting in the eye-popping format to begin with. Stewart discussed the reasoning behind his decision to not film in 3D and why converting isn’t necessarily a bad thing when done right.
“I wanted to shoot anamorphic film using lenses used back in the 70s when we were shooting Priest and using those old-school looking flares that really gives film a great pop visually,” explained Stewart. “So, because of that decision, we knew we were going to have to post-production convert Priest. When you shoot for 3D, you shoot in a digital format, and I really wanted this movie to have depth to it that you don’t have when you shoot digitally. Sony has a real commitment to 3D so we had an ongoing dialogue with the studio about how to make Priest have a real 3D feel to the vampires but still keeping the integrity of the film we shot on.”
“Most people rush their post-conversions these days, but we’ve had nothing but time on our side to make sure we get it right. We’re spending over six months converting the film because we’ve seen what happens when you rush the process. These will be the most realistic vampires anyone has seen in 3D, I can promise that much,” Stewart added.
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